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Five Key Elements of Analytics for Publishers

Written by on October 8, 2013

Late last night I was asked by an editor for a newspaper what I would consider to be the most important thing to know for publishers in terms of analytics. Great question... and something I could write about for ages.

To put it simply, I would say this:

Ecommerce analytics and publisher analytics are two completely different things, and most of our tools can only do the former. In ecommerce, for instance, the goal is a conversion, at which point our analytics tools stop working. For a publisher, a conversion is only the very first step. The real value is what happens next.

To this I would add four more:

  • Analytics is not something you can just slap on. It's not something you solve by adding a javascript snippet to your site once you have finished designing it. You have to design your site for analytics.
  • Analytics is inherently wrong in its approach because it starts with the beginning and creates a linear path to the end. All that does is to give you a bunch of lines but what you really need is to be able to identify patterns.
  • Analytics needs to be result oriented, which means that you start with the result (the end), and identify paths and patterns that produce the best output. Pretty much all analytics tools I have seen do this backwards. It starts with, for instance, 'sources, and then it drills down to what kind of result each source contributed to. But that's not how people behave. We are multi-source, so you can't start with a single source.
  • For publishers, the end isn't a point (a conversion), it's a behavioral state. For a web shop the end is when people buy something, for a publisher it's when they stick around and come back repeatedly. Most analytics tools measure the end as a point.

So the most important thing for publishers to know about analytics is to understand that if you measure a publication using ecommerce analytic concepts, you will end up with all the wrong answers.

Oh... and when you start to realize this, you also realize that the same is true for web shops and brand blogs. A conversion doesn't end when people buy something. It ends when they no longer return for more.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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